I want to do a little roundup of what’s been going on with Cricut and Silhouette machines and software recently in case you’ve missed out on any of the news or are dying to hear my armchair analysis of it. So here are the snippets, in no particular order (but grouped by manufacturer)…
Silhouette releases its cloud and the Cameo3 before they are ready
Whenever the first thing you have to do when you take a machine out of the box is update the firmware to get it to work, that is a dead giveaway that it was released too soon. Firmware, for those not familiar, is the normally factory-installed software onboard a device. Updating it should be needed rarely, if ever unless adding new features, as it is a time-consuming, nerve-wracking process that is not beginner-friendly.
But in the case of the Cameo 3 there have been 3 firmware versions released in the brief time the machine has been on the market yet the Cameo 3 is still suffering from a number of issues including bluetooth connectivity problems and excessive pausing.
To make matters worse, the Cameo 3 requires version 3.8 of Silhouette Studio, which is one of the cloud-based versions. The Silhouette Cloud is still glitchy and far from user-friendly with many adopters experiencing scrambled libraries, missing files and an inability to download their store files. So, unfortunately, Cameo 3 users have to deal with issues both related to the non-optional (for them) cloud and the new machine and its immature firmware.
Version 4 of the Silhouette Studio software, which promises some exciting new features, and was supposed to be released following a robust beta testing phase in time for the Cameo 3 launch, has had to be put on the back burner since it wasn’t ready when the machine was released and resources had to be diverted to patching version 3 instead.
My advice … just say no to the Silhouette Cloud and the Cameo 3 for now and let firstname.lastname@example.org know if you would rather wait for a machine that is ready to function properly out of the box. While Silhouette’s cloud is basically a good idea as planned, I would still like to see it be made optional to protect those who have poor or expensive internet connections and to prevent the problem Cricut has with rising system requirements.
Silhouette quietly deprecates the only remaining V2 version
Those who wish to continue using the beloved Silhouette Studio version 2.9.67 (itself a response to a previous outcry) were surprised to learn that their software could no longer download from the Silhouette store as of earlier this month. Silhouette gave no warning to those who have chosen to use a version of the software that they preferred over current offerings. Now, granted, V3 was released 2 and a half years ago, but in that amount of time, Silhouette has failed to restore the full feature set of V2 or provide a more stable, reliable version 3 that would entice us to upgrade even after 18 (yes, I counted them) iterations. I should add that version 3.6.057 (the last pre-cloud version) is not that bad, its just that V2 was so good. As my friend and Silhouette guru, Jin Yong, put it, with V3, “it’s just not fun anymore.”
Please let Silhouette know your feelings on this, v2 lovers, and perhaps we can win another reprieve.
Cricut quietly drops Windows 7 and MacOS 10.9
As I have discussed previously, one unfortunate consequence of a cloud based system is that the minimum system requirements are fluid. Indeed, Cricut recently raised its system requirements again, even though no new features have been added to the Cricut Design Space Mac or Win versions in over a year. Windows 7 machines are still running Design Space without issue for now. The biggest impact will be getting support for an operating system that is officially no longer compatible. Unfortunately, this change was made shortly after the period for free updates to Windows 10 had closed.
Update: System Requirements changed again on 10/6. MacOS 10.10 has been dropped. The meaningless clock speed reference was also removed and specific internet speeds were added.
Cricut Explore 2 to be released Oct 5
After several weeks of trickling leaks, Cricut confirmed the impending release of the Explore 2. It has the same form factor as existing Explores but with an inverted color scheme (color on top, lighter on bottom) in 4 retro pastel colors. The only other difference is the addition of an optional “Fast Mode” which will cut or write up to 2x faster when using the vinyl, cardstock or iron on settings. The comparison video seems to show the same cutting order for both, so presumably the speed increase is not from cutting order optimization (which would be a way to speed up existing Explores as well.) While the new machine is an incremental update, those wishing to purchase an existing Explore model should find great deals now and on Black Friday.
The Design Space plug in was updated overnight to support the new machine, so if you are experiencing new issues, contact support.
I can’t help but wondering if they will release a single head version called the Explore 2 One. LOL
My advice, skip the Explore 2 for now and let Cricut support know if you won’t be needing another color until the Design Space overhaul is complete and proven.
Cricut releases offline design and cutting for iOS
After nearly a year of beta testing, Cricut recently released a version of its iOS app that can operate without an active internet connection (this is not possible with the browser-based Mac and Windows versions). Instead of having the “entire library of over 50,000 files … plus your own designs to design with” offline, as earlier announced, users can select content to transfer to their iOS devices, 50 files at a time. This actually works better for me since I don’t have a lot of space available on my iPad, but it fell short of Cricut’s own stated objective to be the first in the industry to offer their entire library for design offline. (I guess they forgot Cricut Design Studio did that in 2007).
Cricut Design Space web app improvements, Android app still in work
Cricut recently announced that efforts to replace Design Space’s dependence on the problematic Flash platform in favor of HTML5 have been underway for over a year but declined to announce a target date. Beta testers have been recruited but are on hold for now. Larger paper sizes for print then cut are now a year and half late based on Cricut’s originally announced timeframe.
The Android app continues in testing, also with no target date announced. It is unclear whether Android users will be getting an offline option at release, or ever.
“SnapMat” added to Design Space iOS app
A recent update to the Cricut Design Space iOS app added a previously unannounced feature to assist with positioning cuts, called SnapMat. SnapMat allows users to capture a photo of their mat, loaded with paper scraps, preprinted images, etc. to serve as a guide when manually placing cut lines during the mat preview phase. While a big improvement over the tedious “counting squares” method, SnapMat’s accuracy is limited because it does not account for mat loading tolerances like the technology Silhouette and Brother use for this function. I am looking forward to seeing Cricut/iOS users employ this feature in creative ways, nonetheless.
Reading back through this, I realize I sound kinda cranky, to say the least. The truth is I enjoy using machines from both companies almost daily, but someone needs to sift through the hype, see past the pretty colors and challenge these companies on the unfulfilled promises and untapped potential. So I call it like I see it, in hopes that both companies will keep striving to produce solid, innovative, user friendly machines, even if it means my wacky workarounds will no longer be needed.